As with workouts, there is an acknowledged lack of specificity when it comes to diet and nutrition. You're better off with a set of broad guiding principles that can be applied as a base layer.
With that in mind, here is my personal meal plan and macro breakdown that will help to trim fat and build muscle - irrespective of what your specific goals might be.
Consider it a diet form of GPP (General Physical Preparedness). I want to be able to always be able to achieve a number of things at any given time without following a specific regime. These principals currently include:
- getting to & maintaining body fat at 10-12%
- having uninterrupted sleep
- having unlimited energy for play with my kid
- only drinking alcohol 3 days per week (a function of #2)
- maintaining focus in meetings and at work
- adding 2-3kg of lean muscle
- recovering well from workouts
So to that end I’ve stacked my diet in a way that gives me enough of what I need to achieve those goals whilst at the same time being as easy to implement as possible.
Could there be more variation? God, yes. Is it boring to eat this way? Or a chore? Not really. Not for me, anyway.
Can you eat this way with a three year old by your side? Yes, absolutely. That’s what I’ve been doing with this exact plan. (He eats a variation of this or has something completely different yet equally easy to prepare.)
If losing weight rapidly is your current goal you may also be interested in this post that looks at the best ways to lose 5kg fast.
The Meal Plan
#1 Pre-Breakfast – Protein Shake w Milk
I’m not a huge supplements fan and especially not of supplements full of all kinds of chemicals that you can’t pronounce. However, I’m a single dad in a hurry and I need fuel after workouts and to kick-start the day. Sleep is catabolic which means it depletes your muscles. That’s not good, especially if you’re on the lean side to begin with (what’s known in the trade as a ‘hard-gainer’).
I read years ago that a good guiding principle is to start the day with 30g of protein if you’re serious about building muscle.
When I think back to my previous breakfasts of coffee and toast with vegemite and butter, we’re talking a serious dearth of protein until at least mid-morning. Depending on your goals, that’s all well and good, but I’m trying to bulk up a little and training early-doors so I need all the help I can get.
A brown-rice based, all-natural protein is probably a little less effective than some of the other stuff but it helps get me to my macros and I feel somewhat better about it, especially as I’m going to be drinking three of these a day.
#2 Breakfast – 3 Egg Omelette With Cheese
In the past I’ve cooked more elaborate ‘one-pan keto-feasts’ but they take a little longer. The omelette is super-speedy.
Variations on this theme could be to include a bowl of porridge and stirring through some protein powder to make ‘chocolate protein oats’. The only ingredients for this are milk, water, oats and your protein.
#3 Snack – Protein Shake
#4 Lunch – Tuna, Brown Rice & Beans + 2 Glasses Milk
In terms of bang-for-your-buck and downright convenience, you can’t go past this combination. It’s the Holy Trinity of luncheon goodness.
I can only tolerate Sirena tuna, whose label reassures me that it’s line caught and sustainable etc. I find this is less like cat food than some of the other, cheaper brands. Basil oil flavour is my go-to. I use Edgells 4 Bean Mix mini tins and 90 Second microwave brown rice from whatever supermarket I’ve been to.
I grate cheese over the top of this for more fat, and because cheese makes everything taste better. Total cost per meal: $5.35.
#5 Snack – Protein Shake
#6 Dinner – Chicken / Pork, Broccoli, Zucchini, Sweet Potato, Apple
In the past I’ve tended to roast / bake a tray of vegetables and chuck some chicken breast in the other side of the tray (covered in a little foil tent for half the cooking time (usually 30-35 mins) to stop it drying out.
The beauty of this is that once you’ve bunged it in the oven, you can go and workout for a bit or play with junior or – if you’re unencumbered by children – give the missus a little back-rub – whatever blows your hair back.
Then I got hold of a little microwave steamer and my whole world changed. Here’s how.
You chop up your veg and layer it in the steamer according to how long it takes to cook. Then you steam it for about 4 minutes. [Note: sweet potato can handle around 3 mins on it’s own before you add the greens for the remaining 4 mins. This depends on the power of your microwave so play around with it.]
This could be the end of the story. You serve up your greens with your meat (which you’ve pan-fried and rested under foil and out of the pan for 5 minutes – this is crucial). You’ll probably want some seasoning with this though.
Alternatively, you drain the veggies, blanche under cold water to stop the cooking process, throw a decent knob of butter into the meat pan and then mix the greens through the butter.
In a restaurant this would be called something like ‘twice-cooked greens, keto-style,’ or something equally grand, and, as with a lot of the cooking here, it depends on your approach to fats and what your nutritional objectives are.
But, if you still want flavour and satiety but without the empty carbs, then it’s worth trying because it makes them taste, and excuse my French here, but, “f*cking delicious.”
Total – Protein: 214g, Carbohydrate: 180g, Fat: 90g
This plan works for me for a few key reasons:
- It isn’t especially expensive
- It’s pretty healthy
- It’s easy to stick to and can be done alongside kids food
- It tastes good
- It enables me to hit my objective-related macros It eradicates most unhealthy carbs from my diet
Is it perfect? Nope.
Could it be made healthier? Yep, pretty easily. Sub in celery sticks dipped in almond butter for one of the snacks.
I found this article on the Anabolic Diet which takes things in an even more extreme ketogenic direction but is actually quite accessible because it brings carbs back in on “refeed” days at the weekend.
As always, I love hearing where I’m going wrong and what I could be doing better. Let me know in the comments!
Ben Ford is the author of superfitdad.com.au, a lifestyle blog that focuses on health tips for busy dads.